How We Are Handling Astronomy and Outreach During This Pandemic

As a whole, the hobby of amateur astronomy has taken a hard hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We at The Catawba Valley Astronomy Club and the Lucile Miller Observatory have endured a complete shutdown of all regular "hands on" public observing and public outreach programs.

Astronomy does not fare well in the no-contact environment. Telescopes and binoculars require hands-on contact to setup, aim and use. Then there is the issue with the eyepieces. Ones hands, face, and eyes are in contact with the scope and eyepiece during observing. This is fine when Bob takes his telescope into the back yard and he is the only person to use it. But that presents a problem for us.

Of the dozens of astronomy clubs and organizations in North Carolina, The Catawba Valley Astronomy Club and the Lucile Miller Observatory are known as leaders in public astronomy outreach and education. We are blessed with a great observatory and members willing to present programs and observing to everyone. Visitors and groups have been welcomed at Miller Observatory. We have taken our telescopes and exhibits to group locations and public events. All of that is on hold for now.

The Catawba Valley Astronomy Club experiences the same risks as other organizations. Many of our members have compromised health or are dealing with relatives who are at risk. Like many others, we do not know if any of our members are asymtomatic carriers of this thing. We have very few members willing or able to do in person observing and programs. Social distancing is impossible with group astronomy.

As for the Lucile Miller Observatory itself, the situation is a little more complex. The observatory is the property of the Catawba County (NC) School System and is on the campus of Maiden Middle School in Maiden NC. There are no activities at the schools now. We have closed the observatory until the school system reopens. We do not know when this will occur. (One person has been in the observatory to check on the water leaks after a heavy storm).

So, here is what we have decided for the time being:

1) We will have no activities or observing at Lucile Miller Observatory.

2) We respectfully must decline ALL requests for any visits offsite for observing or programs.

3) CVAC meetings will be held for club members only online, via ZOOM.

4) FREE Online observing and programs available to everyone are in development.

Please notice that we have not addressed cleaning or any procedures for when in person observing resumes. That is because we don't have anything in place yet. We will work within the CDC guidlines, government restrictions, and school system policy when we resume. Expect things to be very different for a great while.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Please Contact Us! with your questions or concerns. In the meantime, watch our web pages, and facebook posts for online observing and program opportunities.

The Catawba Valley Astronomy Club